Nestled along the vibrant Kenyan north coast lies the enchanting Watamu Marine National Park and Reserve, often hailed as the “Haven of the Green Turtle.” This remarkable marine ecosystem is a treasure trove, boasting the presence of these ancient mariners, unique coral gardens, and the intriguing Gede Ruins. Within the embrace of this sanctuary, a rich and diverse tapestry of life unfolds, teeming with avian wonders, an array of fish species, graceful turtles, and even the elusive dugongs. Visitors to this coastal gem can immerse themselves in the idyllic white sandy beaches, indulge in snorkeling adventures, partake in water skiing and windsurfing, and embark on captivating glass-bottomed boat tours.
Descend beneath the surface of the sea in Watamu Marine National Park and prepare to be spellbound by a mesmerizing spectacle. Here, you will encounter over 150 species of vibrant, colorful fish and a breathtaking display of dazzling coral formations. This national park safeguards several critical marine habitats, including sand and mud flats, intertidal rock, lush mangrove swamps, pristine beaches, thriving coral reefs, and vibrant coral gardens. These habitats provide refuge to a myriad of marine inhabitants, from the majestic Wrasse to the diminutive Clownfish and the endangered Turtles. Watamu is a haven for water enthusiasts, whether seasoned divers or landlubbers, as it offers captivating glass-bottomed boat excursions. Situated on Kenya’s North coast, approximately 120 kilometers North of Mombasa, the beaches of Watamu Marine National Park offer a multitude of activities to those who prefer to stay on dry land. Kite-surfing, wind-surfing, swimming, water-skiing in the Mida Creek, sailing, cycling, dolphin-watching, horse-riding, sailing on traditional Arabic Dhows, and even golfing are among the activities to relish. You can also simply relax on the pristine, sun-drenched white sands and soak up the equatorial sunshine.
This location, known as The Larder, is positioned in the north and serves as an anchoring point for boats. It is renowned for the impressive shoals of sizable fish that gather here.
A 100-meter stretch of coral heads marks the Coral Gardens, located at the lagoon’s edge, and is home to at least 250 fish species. This area is the preferred choice for boat-based snorkeling activities.
These reefs are among the finest dive spots, hosting a diverse array of fish species. Turtle Reefs provide a sheltered environment for divers during windy conditions. The unique sea creatures found here include Starfish, Parrotfish, Lobsters, Anemones, Moray Eels, Wrasses, and Sea Urchins.
Watamu Marine National Park stands as a pristine breeding ground for Turtles. Various programs, including beach patrols and incentives for fishermen to release accidentally captured turtles, are in place to safeguard this treasure. Rehabilitation Centers and Nest Monitoring programs tend to injured or sick turtles, while Community Education initiatives further contribute to turtle conservation. The park primarily serves as a sanctuary for nesting Green Turtles, with other species like the Hawksbill Turtles and Olive Ridleys on the rise.
Renowned as one of the world’s most valuable mangrove ecosystems, the Mida Creek Mangrove Forest is a birding paradise, attracting both local and migratory bird species from Asia and Europe. This tidal inlet boasts diverse habitats influenced by the tide, including open areas ideal for fish breeding and feeding. Seaweed and seagrass communities, along with mangrove ecosystems, contribute to sediment capture, benefiting corals and providing a perfect habitat.
The crown jewel of Watamu Marine National Park undoubtedly lies beneath the surface, where snorkeling enthusiasts will discover an aquatic wonderland. More than 150 species of both soft and hard corals await, accompanied by over 1000 species of fish. Fan corals, sponges, and brain corals adorn the ocean floor. The unique aspect of Watamu is the fringing reef, located just 300 meters offshore, allowing everyone to partake in the underwater spectacle. With crystal-clear waters ensuring excellent visibility, snorkelers are in for a treat. For scuba divers, over 20 premier dive sites beckon, all within a convenient 30-minute offshore journey.
The protected waters of Watamu provide an ideal breeding ground for numerous fish species, making it a thrilling destination for anglers. These sheltered waters rank among the finest spots for big-game fishing along the African coastline. Sailfish, Marlin, Spearfish, and Swordfish are just some of the prized catches found here. Deep-sea charter companies cater to both novices and seasoned fishermen, with fishing competitions adding excitement to the prime fishing season, which spans from December to March.
Watamu Marine National Park and its surroundings offer a haven for birdwatchers, boasting four strategic bird areas. These locations, including Whale Island, Mida Creek, Dakatcha Woodland, and Sabaki River Mouth, primarily showcase water birds. The region attracts a plethora of Egrets, Plovers, Sandpipers, Terns, and migrant species such as Warblers, Flycatchers, Shrikes, Sunbirds, and Orioles.
At the Turtle Watch Center, visitors gain insights into the fascinating world of turtles and the dedicated conservation efforts underway. The center plays a vital role in rehabilitating turtles, releasing them back into the sea, and safeguarding hatchlings on their journey to the ocean.
Watamu enjoys a consistently warm climate throughout the year, thanks to its proximity to the Equator. The optimal months for diving, snorkeling, and fishing are from October to April. Turtle nesting and hatching activities, on the other hand, occur year-round.
Watamu offers a range of accommodation options to suit various budgets. Some of the finest hotels in the area include Hemingway’s Hotel, Ocean Sports, and Watamu Tree House, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable stay for every traveler.